Sunday, May 10, 2009

Caught in Motion: On the Edge of a Dream

I'm going to go out on a limb and announce a new genre of music. I call it Alternative Jazz-Emo. Actually what I love the most about this band is the creative blend of styles, not just from song to song but within songs.

I could go on with a list of bands they sound like at different moments but I won't waste your time. It's easier to listen. Banah Graf is the front man, responsible for the singing, songwriting and guitar. And his right hand man, Sam Krulewitch, who played some instruments on the album, also wrote a couple songs.

In fact the two of them played all instruments, wrote the songs and did the entire recording. This is pretty impressive considering the array of instruments included on the album. I hear piano, guitar, bass, drums, and some synthesized sounds probably done by keyboard. Both the piano and drums are quite nicely done. I do wish some of the vocals were mixed a little bit higher but that's usually my personal preference.

The album is solid. There isn't one song on the album you would skip through. I think my favorites are "Halo" and "Drop the Ball". These two songs have examples of the blend of jazz and other genres I'm talking about. In "Halo" the piano sounds like something you'd hear from Billy Joel in the 1970's. (Oops, ok, I named a band.) But something is very different here. The drums are hitting a little harder and in parts it slows down with heavy guitar strumming, and an emotional vocal line. And this method works. In fact in some parts it almost sounds like Nirvana. (I'm giving up on the "not naming bands" thing).

And the lyrics are very well done with enough poetic metaphorical content to keep you curious and guessing at the meaning of the songs. I like it like that. I don't like to be spoon-fed my lyrics. I'll leave you with a quote from the last song on the album, "Something's Gotta Give".

"I could have sworn I saw the light there
that's what makes me believe
I could've sworn I saw the time go
that's what makes me believe
that something's gotta give"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kenny Schick: Under

This is one of those albums that had my ears instantly perk up. And it hasn't let me down since the first listen. Inspired by a spontaneous trip to Australia, Kenny Schick's album, "Under", paints landscapes from the other side of the world. With its wide-open sound, use of tight harmonies, and rhythmic anecdotes, the feeling this album gives me is of pure freedom. Kenny's airy voice and sensitive guitar work lay delicately in the center of the songs.

It's hard for me to choose which songs are my favorites. I really enjoy "Summer". And it could be that this is where the female harmonies come in and really start to shine. The lyrics speak to me with nostalgia and longing:

"Summer was fine
but summer came and went
one more time
now leaves are falling all around
still I'm not found"

The song following this one, "Revelator", is another one of my picks. It's actually a Gillian Welch song that I've never heard before. But Kenny's version is divine. The use of female harmonies and percussion are perfect.

But really all the songs on this album are excellent. Just when I thought I was about to wrap up this review, his song, "Rain", started playing. And I thought, "Maybe this one is my favorite?" So there you go. If you are a fan of honest sounding, acoustic folk-inspired rock with lovely harmonies then you will love this album.